Review: Late Night [Spoiler Free]

Late Night Movie Poster

My wife and I took a spin to our local cinema recently for a showing of the new Mindy Kaling film Late Night. I’ll admit straight off the bat that I wouldn’t normally be in a rush to see something in this genre (even if it’s written by the hilarious and talented Kaling) but the vibes around the film were all very positive, so off we went.

Why now?

Late Night was released in theatres on June 7, 2019.

In a nutshell

The host of a late-night talk show hires a new writer (Kaling) to help turn things around after several years of dwindling popularity and viewership, with both amusing and life-affirming consequences (naturally).

Who’s it for?

The movie’s rated 15 but there really isn’t much in it to worry about, bar some bad language and sexual references. Fans of clever, thoughtful humour (as opposed to the trashy, gross-out humour that so often pervades comedy movies these days) will appreciate this one.

Emma Thompson appears in Late Night by Nisha Ganatra, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Emily Aragones.

Who’s in it?

Mindy Kaling! The Office star wrote and produced this one herself, and it’s easy to tell – her signature brand of quick-witted comedy is all over Late Night, and Kaling puts in a typically-assured performance throughout. Emma Thompson stars as Katherine Newbury, pioneering talk show host and ice-queen of the small screen (in parts, anyway). John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy and a host of other folks you’ll quickly recognise provide support to Kaling and Thompson.

The good stuff

In a nutshell (I don’t care, I’m using it again), the premise, writing, acting and direction in Late Night are all superb. It’s not an entirely original concept, but it joins a host of other behind-the-scenes style movies and TV shows that lay bare the gruelling hard work and obstacles that those in television have to endure on a weekly basis, while managing to make it all very funny and endearing (think 30 Rock, but a touch more serious). I thought the film struck a good balance between humour and social commentary, particularly in terms of why Kaling’s character Molly was hired in the first place and the unfair pressures inflicted on women (especially older women) in the entertainment industry. It’s a movie that will make you think as much as laugh, which is a sure sign of worthwhile writing.

The not so good stuff

As I said before, Late Night isn’t totally original, and you’ll definitely feel like you’ve seen parts of it before. Thompson’s character occasionally strays into the realm of pantomime villain, but the strength of her performance ensures the audience can remain sympathetic throughout and, well, it’s Emma Thompson, isn’t it? I would have liked to have seen slightly more character development for Molly, who sort of hits a wall late on and slips into a predictable arc, but those are minor gripes and easily outweighed by the good stuff.

The bottom line

Late Night is funny, satisfying and thought-provoking, a rare treble in my book. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it does affirm something we already knew about Mindy Kaling – she’s one of the best comedy writers in Hollywood.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Late Night Trailer

Also Read: Review: Booksmart

Posted by
David McIlroy

Freelance writer/contributor based in Northern Ireland. Degrees in English, Film and Youth Work. Married to the beautiful Christine. My main things: God, family, movies, reading, and Liverpool FC.